Spring, Summer, and Fall you can usually find me, an hour before sunset, on a beach somewhere between Pensacola Beach or Navarre, FL and Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, AL. Family portrait sessions on the white sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast are a thing of tradition for many both local and vacationers alike. But there's something else I'd like for you to remember when you're envisioning the perfect family portrait session -
let the children play...
Towards the end of family and child, after I've taken all of the more "traditional" or posed pictures, I often ask my clients to consider allowing their kids to get a little sandy and wet. More times than not I'm met with a look of shock and hesitation.
And, I don't push it. If you're not into it, I get it. Your kids (and you) are in nice (coordinated) outfits that you've spent a lot of time and energy assembling, and here I am asking you to let them not only get super sandy but wet too!
But consider it.
Let your children walk away from this session remembering how much FUN it was! (You might find that it ends up being your favorite part of the session as well.)
These pictures are of my own kids - taken a few weeks ago.
Did I want to load them back in my car all wet and sandy?
Had I even thought to bring towels?
Also no. (mom fail)
But when they asked if they could go splash in the water, did I let them?
Heck YES! Without a moment's hesitation.
And they had a BLAST! They chased waves, and danced, and LAUGHED until long after the sun had already crossed below the horizon. And next time, I'll do it again.
At home that night, my back floorboard was full of sand, and my seats were damp. But, the floor can be vacuumed, the seats were dry by morning, and all 3 kids burst into my office before bed that night wanting to see their pictures!
Family vacations can be stressful enough without the added headache of capturing all those memories. But, since capturing those memories are a must, I thought I'd share a few thoughts to help you on your way to great, less-stressful, vacation photography.
Oh, and enjoy some of my various vacation photos from over the years. :)
How many of you have nice, semi-pro (or even professional) cameras but still feel like you have no idea what you're doing? Yep, I thought so.
This morning I thought I'd share my favorite photography books and magazines NOT specifically geared for the professional photographer. If you're ready to start unlocking your photography potential - then read on!
*Finding Beauty in the Ordinary photography receives nothing for promoting the following books and magazines. They are merely books I own and love and magazines I've subscribed to for years.*
We'll start with books.
If, like me, you find it hard to find the time to sit down with a book, I strongly recommend you look into photography magazines. There are many, many options out there. The ones that follow are my personal favorites.
I hope you this post helps you find something to unlock your creative, photography spirit.
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to show off some the awesome photography products that we carry. Plus, since I’ve added a few more goodies, what better way to introduce them than to show them off!
Since it is the Christmas season, I am going to start off with these super cute, and affordable, custom Christmas ornaments. On the left is a bamboo ornament that comes in your choice of 13 sizes & shapes (the one show is 4″x2.5″). They’re ~1/4″ thick and show the beautiful, natural grain of the bamboo through the image. On the right is a sweet metal ornament that can be ordered in the design shown or a snowflake.
These ornaments not only look lovely on your own tree, they make a fantastic gift for grandparents!
Next up is an item I’ve been proudly using for 2 months now: a custom cell phone case.
What a great way to show off your babies – without having to even unlock your phone screen.
Cases are black rubber grip with interchangeable photo inserts. These aren’t sold as “protective cases” like Otterbox, Lifeproof, etc – BUT, my toddler has dropped and thrown my phone multiple times on quite a few different surfaces, and so far, no damage has occurred to my Samsung S6.
Cases are available for the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPad Mini, and iPhones 4, 5, 6, & 6 Plus.
The base order includes 1 case and 1 insert – additional inserts can be added to your order or ordered at a later date.
The gorgeous picture above is my 2nd favorite new product: the 3″x3″ accordion mini album. This beautiful, sturdy mini album comes with your choice of up to 10 customizable panels and your choice of cover: fabric, leathers, suede, or (my personal fave) custom photo. Accordion Mini albums come in sets of 3 boxed up in a little manilla colored box – PERFECT for grandparent gifts (can you not just picture grandma whipping this out of her purse to show off to everyone) or as a display in mom or dad’s office!
Next up, you can NEVER go wrong with a custom, 1 1/2″ gallery wrap canvas! It’s classic, it’s sturdy, and you don’t even need a frame.
Each gallery wrap canvas is finished with saw-tooth hangers and corner bumpers.
I’ll wrap up with something many of us are knee deep in this time of year – Christmas cards.
I am proud to offer, high quality, customized Press-Printed & Foil Pressed greeting cards in a variety of sizes.
Custom designed cards are perfect for new baby announcements, Birthday invitations, Graduation announcements, Christmas cards, etc.
So, now you’ve seen the beautiful, high quality, and affordable products we carry for our clients. But, just because you don’t see it here doesn’t mean we can’t get it. So, if there’s ever something special that you have in mind, just ask!
What’s the cause of one of mom’s biggest stresses before a Family Portrait Session?
If you answered “What do I/we wear?” – then you’re right! More than half of my clients like to run clothing ideas by me or get my clothing suggestions before a session. And you know what, I LOVE that part! I’ve even received texts from dressing rooms.
But you know what, it makes sense. In color photography, one of the first things our eyes are drawn to are the clothes.
There are 3 Big Trends (we’ll call them the Big 3 from now on) in family portrait clothing coordination, especially for beach pictures. I’m sure you’ve seen them: white shirts and jeans, white shirts and khakis, or all white. Don’t get me wrong, I get it; these are clothes that everyone has. No one needs to go shopping, mom doesn’t need to stress, etc. I’ve shot these pictures. I’ve actually been IN these pictures.
These pictures are fine. There’s nothing wrong with them (outfit-wise) – everyone looks happy and coordinated. But there’s no wow factor either – nothing to set you apart from the hundreds of other “family beach pictures”. Consider adding some color to your portrait session! This doesn’t have to involve a family wide shopping trip – if you want to go with one of the Big 3, add a funky belt or shoes, colorful jewelry, or a scarf.
Another idea is to put the adults in one of the Big 3 options and have the kids be the pops of color.
If you’ve decided to add color for the whole family, don’t be scared! I’m here to help! An easy idea is to find an patterned item of clothing that you love and then use the colors in that item to pick outfits for everyone else. And don’t hesitate to ask your photographer for suggestions – he or she knows the area where you’re shooting as well as the time of day. I even have a Pinterest board specifically to help with color combination ideas here.
The second biggest decision to make when booking is where to have your portrait session. My coverage area extends from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach through Pensacola to Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach as well as north to Cantonment and Milton.
I have my favorite locations in every area. But, there are plenty of times a client comes to me with a specific location already in mind.
Where we take your pictures has a lot to do with determining HOW your portraits will look in the end. Is it in an open field or beach (bright, open), urban/ warehouse area (dim, grungy, edgy), or in your home (personal)? I want the location of your session to be about you which I why I really like your input on where we shoot. As I said, I have my favorite locations and can definitely make suggestions, but at the end of the day, this is your session and YOU need to be happy with the look of your pictures.
Now let’s talk about the two most requested location types as well as thoughts on what kind of clothing to consider and the best times of day to shoot based on each location.
What to wear for a beach session?
Think about the colors that are already there – blues like the sky, greens and yellows of the sea oats and sea grasses, and teals like the Gulf itself. Another fun way to go for a sunset session would be to wear warm colors – reds, orange, pink as compliment to the beautiful sunset colors.
Best time of day for beach portrait sessions – Beach portrait sessions have the most beautiful light in the hour after sunrise or within an hour of sunset. The combination of our beautiful, sandy WHITE beaches and the glaring sun can lead to harsh (read: unflattering) shadows and squinting during daytime sessions. Overcast days are another great option for beach portrait sessions.
Parks – If we’re being honest, parks are MY favorite session location. There are so many great parks in Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, and surrounding areas! Every area photog has their favorites. Park setting suggestions are great for the area forts as well!
My only “what-not-to-wear” suggestion is red. Unless we’re shooting for Christmas pictures, you want to avoid red when in a primarily green location. I’m sure you can figure that one out. If you’re into neutrals, that’s beautiful, play with blacks, browns, blues, whites. Parks are also a great place to really play with some color: purples, yellow, pinks, bright teals – they all look great in a park situation.
Park sessions can offer us a little wiggle room as far as session time also. Depending on the amount of available shade, we can make many times of day work.
Most importantly – be comfortable. Make sure your kids are wearing something comfortable. And pick a location that you love!
And I’d love it if you’d let me show you why!
I’m what many in the industry call a “shoot and burn” or “turn and burn” photographer.
What’s that mean? The simple answer is that I provide some of the high resolution digital images to my clients as part of the session fee. Digital images are what my clients want, so that’s what I provide. I also make it a point to let my clients know about the professional print products I offer! I do this for 2 reasons:
In order to put my money where my mouth is, I chose the 2 portraits that had gotten the most love on my Facebook and Instagram accounts from this summer’s Orange Beach, AL Portrait Sessions and had 5×7 size prints made by my Professional Lab of choice (Millers), as well as 4 of the most common stores the average consumer uses for prints – Walmart, Target, CVS, and Shutterfly.
These are the images I chose.
Are you ready to start the comparisons? We’ll start with the portrait of the little girl with the sailboat in the background.
I’ll sit here a minute while the shock wears off.
I have to admit I even I was surprised at the extreme difference in these pictures. I knew they’d be off, but I didn’t expect it to be this crazy!
Let’s break it down –
Here’s a close up of the images laid one on top of the other on a white piece of card stock. This let’s you get a really good look at the color differences in the sky!
Ok, on to the second image.
The differences in these prints is MOST noticeable in the skin tone and sky color.
OOO look at all the pretty blues and greens. lol
Ok, obviously, these labs are fine if you want snap shots or need 1 hour pictures printed for a school project or something where the quality isn’t that important to you. I’m in no way saying they don’t have their place in the market. But, if you’ve paid a professional photographer to take portraits of your family, consider getting professional prints made. The professional labs that I use print on archival quality paper that is made to stand the test of time.
**Disclaimer** Obviously, lab results will vary based on location. This post was not made to bash any discount labs, but to educate clients and other professionals. If you do choose to order from one of these discount printers, please do not select the “color correct” box!
Recently, I was asked if I’d be willing to speak to a group of Pensacola moms about how to take better pictures of their kids using their smartphones. After having a slight panic attack about public speaking, I accepted. Since I’m sure there are others out there with the same questions, I thought I’d share my presentation.
Besides having experience photographing client’s children, I have 3 of my own – 2 step daughters ages 9 and (almost) 11 as well as an (almost) 2 year old son. So, I totally understand the struggle of trying to take pictures of kids – ESPECIALLY our own kids!
I was asked specifically to talk about cell phone photography, and that’s the plan. But a lot of what I’m going to cover also pertains to getting wall quality photographs with any equipment.
But, let’s start with more cell phone specific advice.
One of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your cell phone pictures is to NOT use the zoom on your phone. Many of us have or had digital point and shoot style cameras and using the zoom on them is fine. But there’s a difference in the zoom on a camera and the zoom on a phone. A camera offers optical and digital zooms, but your cell phone ONLY gives you a digital zoom. A digital zoom works by effectively cropping the photo BEFORE the picture is taken. This causes you to lose a lot of detail. If possible, move closer to your subject, if not possible, take the shot and then crop the actual photo if needed. This way you still maintain the quality of your image.
You should also try to avoid using your flash. Again, there’s a difference in camera flash and phone flash. In fact, the flash on your phone isn’t a “true flash.” It’s actually an LED light. The color temperature is wrong and the “flash” lasts too long, often times leaving you with a washed out subject and a super dark background. Try to use available light when possible – window, lamp, partial shade. If you must use flash, take a few steps back. Doing this will help limit how washed out your subject appears by giving the flash more area to disperse.
This next one may be obvious, but always know where your focus point is. I know on my phone I can tap on the screen where I want the camera to focus. This also sets the exposure (amount of light the lens will let in) as well which can be problematic, but I’ve learned to work with it.
This last point is simple – keep your lens cleaned. Example: Your kids are looking stylish in their Easter best so you whip your cell out of your pocket/ purse/ bra (I can’t be the only one) to take a picture. Yikes, that lens is most likely to have some combination of lint, sweat, lipstick, or a finger print on it. Take two seconds and wipe your lens with a lens cloth or even on your cotton shirt. As a photographer, part of my prep for each session is simply wiping down my lenses with a lint free cloth.
Now that we’ve talked about how to take good pictures with your smartphone, I’ll show you a few that were taken with mine.
This last picture – you may even be wondering why I’m showing you. But, I promise, everything about this shot was done intentionally. I had the late afternoon sun directly to my right and my son and husband walking up at about a 30 degree angle. I knew if i set my focus (exposure) on the bright sky, I’d catch the subtle rays of sun while keeping my fella’s in shadow.
Now I’ll go over some basic photography principles.
And here's the final image.
Now, on to light. Try to avoid direct sunlight. Overcast days and full shade are your friends! But if you do have your subjects in the shade, make sure you’re paying attention to any shadows. You don’t want leafy shadows on your children’s faces. Golden hour is every photographer’s preferred time of day to shoot. It’s the ~40 minutes after sunrise and ~40 minutes before sunset. Golden hour light is just that – golden.
The photo on the left was taken in full shade about 2.5 hours before sunset. And the picture on the right was taken on an overcast day during golden hour. But see how evenly lit everyone is in both photos?
Composition and Posing – Photographers talk about the rule of thirds. It’s pretty simple, if you split a picture into equal thirds horizontally and vertically, you’re left with four points. Those are where you want the interest in your photo to be.
When you want posed subjects instead of candid moments, think about making triangles. You want to “stack” your subjects into a picture. Avoid just putting everyone in a line. In the pictures with just my kids, you can easily see the triangle. In the picture with all four kids, there are actually several triangles.
Also, if there’s an obvious horizon in your photo, try to keep it straight. Many of us tend to place more weight on one foot over the other which automatically causes us to tilt without being aware. This will create tilted horizon lines.
And last but not least, get down on the same level as your subjects. If they’re on the ground, you should be too!
I’ll wrap up by talking a little more about smartphones. When editing your photos, try to avoid filters and instead get a good photo editing app. A good editing app will let you fix crazy horizon lines, adjust exposure and the temperature (color cast) of your picture, as well as many other cool things like playing with highlights and shadows.
The best reviewed app I could find that will work on iPhones, androids, and window phones is PicsArt Photo Studio. It’s free and has plugins you can purchase inexpensively. It also seems to be pretty user friendly. I personally use Snapseed, Adobe Photoshop Express, and Adobe Lightroom Express. The 2 Adobe apps are available in the apple store and from google play. I have a monthly subscription to the full Adobe suite which includes the phone apps so I’m not sure if Photoshop is free but I know Lightroom is. Snapseed is a great, FREE photo editing app.
There’s a saying among professional photographers –
“Your first 10,000 photos are crap.”
That can be a sobering thought, but I think what it’s really telling you is to get out there and get shooting! The more pictures you take, the better your work will be.
Amanda is the prop buying, location scouting, ponytail sporting, flip flop wearing, owner/ operator/ and woman behind the camera for Finding Beauty in the Ordinary Photography.
Newborn Portrait Photography
Family Portrait Photography
Maternity Portrait Photography
Senior Portrait Photography
From Gulf Shores, AL to Navarre, FL. Covering the areas of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Foley, and Elberta Alabama and Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Pensacola Beach, Pace, and Cantonment Florida.